Fringe Review: Beethoven Rolls Over
I kicked off the 2013 Calgary Fringe Festival in style with a lovely dinner, a couple of glasses of $5 Sangria and some terrific guitar music, courtesy of Vancouver’s ”global guitarist” Colin Godbout who premiered his one man musical, Beethoven Rolls Over at Jacqueline Suzanne’s Bistro on Friday night. This is a return to Calgary for Colin, who impressed audiences at last year’s Fringe with his 2 to Django in the same venue.
The show is more music/cabaret than theatre and is divided into four themes: Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved (a reflection on Beethoven’s love for a woman he only referred to by that name), Romantic and Heroic Beethoven (in which Mozart and Goethe feature prominently), Afrocentric and Feminist Beethoven (who’d have guessed?), and Joni (Mitchell)’s Ludwig. “Joni Mitchell considers Beethoven one of her heroes”, explains Colin, “and has been described by friends as Beethoven in drag”.
While Beethoven’s music (often with other’s lyrics, including some of Colin’s own) is the glue that holds the show together, there’s also some of Colin’s trademark blues, jazz, and flamenco thrown in for good measure. Much of the music will be familiar to people with only a passing knowledge of the classics. I can assure you that hearing Colin play Beethoven’s “Flatted” Fifth on the guitar is quite the treat. Although some people might find the instrument an odd choice for such music, Colin says Beethoven himself played the guitar (considering it a mini-orchestra) and wrote music for mandolin.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Colin – or rather, he sat down at our table while he warmed up on the guitar - before the show. He was more than a little nervous, since he hadn’t performed this show in public before. (He’s doing the Fringe circuit this year with three different shows). “I actually wrote Beethoven Rolls Over with this venue in mind,” he said. “Jacqueline Suzanne’s has a kind of “Orient Express” feel to it, and I find Calgary audiences are quite sophisticated, so that allows me to explore musical concepts that don’t work elsewhere.”
Colin studied music, theology and metaphysics in university and that cerebral intelligence comes across in his programme, his speech and the short monologues throughout the performance. Much of what he said was over my head, and I could not do justice to it by attempting to capture it here, but it was fascinating to listen to his explanations about the meaning behind different chords and musical patterns and the parallels between Beethoven and Chuck Berry, for example. Even so, Colin’s playing speaks for itself and you can enjoy his performance for its own sake, even if you aren’t a philosopher or academic.
The Friday audience got an added bonus when Colin finished earlier than expected, resulting in him having to do some quick improvising, throwing in a Joni Mitchell medley he’d used in his Winnipeg show and some poetry by Milton that rounded off the programme nicely. I’m sure the show will continue to evolve as he settles into it over the course of the week, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if every audience sees and hears something a little different. And isn’t that what the Fringe is all about?
Beethoven Rolls Over plays from 7PM to 8PM every night of the Fringe Festival at Jacqueline Suzanne’s Bistro, plus he is doing an extra performance after the Fringe on Sunday August 11. Tickets are $12, and you should consider buying online in advance to ensure you get a spot as it’s a small space and likely to be popular. If you want to go early and have dinner, make a reservation at the restaurant in advance. If you miss Colin here or want to see more of him, you can catch him at the Edmonton Fringe Festival next week, where he is doing another show called Canuck Quixote.
For more information on Colin go to his website.
Go to Calgary Fringe Festival for tickets and more information on the festival.
[I know I said I wasn't going to do any Fringe reviews this year, but since I didn't get my articles posted beforehand, I figure I might as well write reviews of the two shows I saw on Friday night - Beethoven Rolls Over and Nashville Hurricane (spoiler alert- LOVED IT!) - and then I'll get the rest of my previews up over the course of the next few days. I'm taking a couple of days off and will be back seeing more shows on Monday!]